The Girl King by Meg Clothier

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The Girl King by Meg Clothier

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Set, unusually, in 12th century Georgia, this book features Tamar, their first 'Girl King'. Tamar is trying to hold the country together as opportunist factions challenge her strength. There are ways and means, but at what cost?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: March 2012
Publisher: Arrow
ISBN: 978-0099553137

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King Giorgi, King of Georgia, is without an heir so he does the unthinkable. He names his eldest daughter, Tamar, as 'King' on his death. Tamar is strong, feisty and a total tomboy but, the fact remains, she's female. Therefore when Giorgi passes away the kingdom he's held together starts to crack as the opportunists equate the fairer sex with weakness and possibilities. If Tamar is to gain united lands, she must lose something in return. Is this a sacrifice too far?

On the plus side, this is a good book. It starts at a ripping pace as the young Tamar is hidden away by her father to prevent her kidnapping. Through most of the book it's more like a ripping sword-swinging fantasy than historical fiction. It has all the elements of fantasy apart from wizardry: a daring princess, a brave young lad, an ogre-ish baddie and a fair bit of fighting and running away. Tamar is a character that translates well across the years. She's her own woman and wants to make her own choices, but is hog-tied by tradition and a nation's expectations. A lot of the tension is invested in whether she'll be able to work a way around a situation that would make her life unliveable whilst still retaining the throne. This makes Tamar more believable than the 'nothing but duty' type of ruler that crops up from time to time.

There's also a lovely touch at the end. Meg Clothier has added a note which confirms which bits are actually history and which are author's conjecture, plus information as to where she 'fiddled' the time line for effect. Authors take note – we readers appreciate this. It doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the story. In fact it heightens it as, sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction and, without a true/false guide like this, it's often the facts that we look upon incredulously and discard.

Squeamishometer reading: There are battles and scenes of mild carnage and some torture, but nothing is dwelt on, so nothing to cause the reappearance of dinner.

It is indeed a good book (I won't go back on that – I enjoyed it thoroughly) but there are a couple of minor glitches to put into the equation. Firstly, it may just be me (and I apologise if it is), but 12th century Georgia seemed to be very like medieval England. As the discoverer of a wonderfully fresh historical setting, it would have been nice for Meg Clothier to have added more local/temporal colour. Perhaps the living conditions were pretty similar, but perhaps there were some local customs that would have differentiated the location a little more.

Secondly the author/shotgun/foot scenario was in evidence. Speaking, again, as a reader, I would have loved to have read more of Tamar and her husband (not saying who he is; 'no spoiler' policy and all that). However, the author has firmly closed that door by précising the rest of Tamar's life in the note at the end.

The door is still open though (I'm not averse to labouring a metaphor!) where a prequel is concerned so I'll start the petition now. Read the book and, if you agree, you know where to find me.

If you've enjoyed reading this and would like to try another lesser travelled area in historical fiction, perhaps Silk Road by Colin Falconer is for you.

Buy The Girl King by Meg Clothier at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl King by Meg Clothier at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Girl King by Meg Clothier at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl King by Meg Clothier at Amazon.com.


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